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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 26 February 2004

26 February 2004

26 February 2004 Britain's principal health minister has welcomed plans for universal free IVF (reported yesterday). Dr John Reid agreed with the National Institute for Clinical Excellence's recommendations and said that the priority was national provision of IVF. He said that, by April of next year, at least one cycle of treatment should be available "to all those eligible". He recognised the distress caused by infertility. [Department of Health, 25 February ] The British Fertility Society welcomed Dr Reid's announcement but said that single cycles were inadequate. Mr and Mrs Gary McGee of County Durham, who had successful IVF at a private clinic, were quoted by local media as saying that one free cycle was a waste of government money. Ms Anna Ralph, a north-east England journalist who also paid for IVF, said: "One chance is no chance." [The Journal, 25 February ] The Times newspaper reported an unattributed claim that the change in policy could increase annual births by 5,000. [Times, 25 February ] A man with a degenerative disease is today arguing in the English high court that doctors' guidelines on the withdrawal of food and water breach the European human rights convention. Mr Paul Conrathe, the lawyer for Mr Leslie Burke, 44, of Lancaster, said that General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines did not protect vulnerable people sufficiently. Mr Burke has cerebellar ataxia which will one day deprive him of speech. The GMC has welcomed the judicial review. [BBC, 26 February ] Britain's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of General Practitioners are supporting the Family Planning Association's call (reported on the ninth of this month) for women to be prescribed morning-after pills in advance. [Hospital Doctor, 26 September ] The UK's Equal Opportunities Commission says many employers consider pregnant staff a problem. Annually, more than 1,000 women claim to have been dismissed because they were expecting, though most cases are withdrawn before a full hearing. The commission warns that women who are treated badly during pregnancy are less likely to return to their jobs after giving birth. One pregnant woman won £2,500 in compensation after her employer refused to let her change her shift pattern. [BBC, 26 February ] A £1.6 million UK government scheme to combat, among other problems, teenage pregnancy will include "health related training". A health minister has announced a programme for 13- to 15-year-olds which will include work in journalism, music and environmental projects. [Department of Health, 25 February ] Previous schemes which have promoted abortion and abortifacient birth control have failed to curb the abortion rate. The first African conference on sexual health opens today in Johannesburg, South Africa. Organisers include the Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa. [BBC, 26 February ] A two-hour session tomorrow will be about abortion. [conference agenda ]

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